PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday declared the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing, the New People’s Army, and the umbrella organization, the National Democratic Front as terrorists and ordered detainees he had freed for peace talks rearrested.
“From now on, I will consider the CCP-NPA-NDF a terrorist group,” Duterte said one day after ordering an end to peace talks with the communist rebels.
“I’m ashamed at the statements of these sons-of-bitches. Who do they think they are?” the President, a self-described leftist, said in Filipino.
“You give them all the leeway and they make you look stupid,” he added.
In remarks at the wake of soldiers killed by the communist rebels in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, Duterte also ordered the military and the Bureau of Immigration to be on the lookout for NDF consultants that he had freed for peace talks, including CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
“Arrest them all again,” Duterte said.
The President was visiting the wake of three soldiers killed by NPA rebels on Wednesday last week, the same day that the communist group announced the termination of their unilateral ceasefire with the government.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines reported on Friday that the three soldiers were killed by NPA rebels.
On the same day, Duterte lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the communist group.
Addressing soldiers and families in a mix of Bisaya, Tagalog, and English, the President tore into the CPP-NPA-NDF.
In calling off peace talks, Duterte condemned the insurgents for resuming hostilities, saying he was ready for a prolonged conflict.
“I told the soldiers to prepare for a long war. I said [peace] will not come during our generation,” he said late Saturday.
The two sides separately declared ceasefires in August, and the informal arrangement largely held as they continued discussions in Rome.
The President said he was now ordering government negotiators to “fold their tents and return home from overseas talks with the rebel leaders.
“I am not interested in talking to them [the rebel leaders]. I will refuse to talk about it anymore,” he told reporters.
“We have been fighting for 50 years. If you want to extend it for another 50 years, so be it, we will be happy to accommodate you,” he added.
His order came after the rebels announced an end to their five-month-old ceasefire last week, accusing Duterte’s administration of treachery and human rights abuses.
The government responded by calling off its own unilateral ceasefire with the rebels.
Duterte also denounced the 4,000-strong communist NPA for killing four soldiers in attacks last week, saying one of the victims had been riddled with 76 bullets.
The communist insurgency in the poverty-stricken country, that began in 1968, is one of the longest running in the world and has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives, according to the military.
The NDF on Sunday said it was willing to continue peace talks, even as Duterte announced their cancellation.
“The NDF stands firm in its commitment to struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country in accordance with the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people,” Fidel Agcaoili, NDF chief negotiator, said in a statement sent to reporters.
Agcaoili said that it has yet to receive a formal notice from government peace panel headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on the termination of peace negotiations with the communist rebels.
“The NDF hereby states that it is waiting for the formal notice from the GRP Negotiating Panel on its termination of the peace negotiations as mandated in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) which defines the mode of termination,” he added.
NDF peace panel spokesman Dan Borjal, on the other hand, accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines for violating its own ceasefire.
“The AFP took advantage of ceasefire for what they call clearing barangays of NPA influence in the guise of peace and development missions,” he said.
In the same statement, Agcaoili said that all 17 NDF consultants who were granted release from detention last August 2016 by Duterte were “all in the Philippines and are not in hiding.”
“Those who took part in the third round of formal talks in Rome, Italy from 19 to 25 January 2017 have returned to the country as of 31 January. They are all protected from rearrest in accordance with the Jasig,” he said.
“These consultants have been put under the effective jurisdiction of… courts because they were released only on bail and only for a six-month period. They have been required to secure court permission every time they went abroad to participate in the last three rounds of talks. Their bail renewal is due this month and, as reflected in the Rome Joint Statement of 25 January 2017, both their lawyers and the GRP have agreed to cooperate in this regard,” he added.
Agcaoili said the Norwegian government, as third party facilitator in the peace talks, has been covering the travel and accommodation expenses of the NDF delegation.
NDF legal counsel Krissy Conti scored Duterte for failing to appreciate the problem of political prisoners, whom he refused to release until an agreement was reached.
“Duterte yet betrays his misappreciation of the problem of political prisoners, branding them legitimate objects of enforcement of law and order, and calling on them to face charges in court,” Conti said.
“Political prisoners may indeed carry criminal indictments, but the impetus for their arrest lies largely on political motives. Most of them are supporters, suspected rightly or wrongly, of rebel causes. It’s a mix of the outspoken and the timid, the politicized and the ‘collateral damage’ but in common: they’ve been set apart by the state to generally answer for supposed crimes of the NPA, charged en masse and by alias,” she added.
Conti maintained that the solution for the problem of political prisoners is for Duterte to exercise political will to release them immediately.
“So it’s a logical pitfall to pass them all off as common criminals, when the prosecutorial practice has since been to veer away from their politics. They’ve been grievously wronged upon arrest.”
“It’s an added insult to ask them to rely on a system they have sought to change, inside and outside the courtroom, to vindicate themselves,” she added.
A military source said Sunday that intelligence agents have been alerted to keep track of 23 detainees, all identified as NDF consultants, who took part in the peace talks in Oslo and Rome.
Among them were Benito Tiamzon, chairman of the CPP and the NPA and wife Wilma, CPP-NPA secretary-general, who were released Aug. 19, 2016.
Also included were Loisa Magpatoc, thead of the Far South Mindanao command of the CPP-NPA; Reynante Gamara, alleged secretary of CPP’s Metro Manila Regional Party Committee; Tirso Alcantara, spokesman of NDF Southern Tagalog region; Adelberto Silva, secretary-general of the CPP-NPA; Cochita Araneta Bocala, leader of CPP Panay Island Regional Party Committee; and Alan Jazmines, member of the CPP central committee and secretary general of the party. With John Paolo Bencito, Francisco Tuyay, AFP
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